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Customer Review

on September 2, 2012
Length: ~220pp

1. Wall Street, The First Domino - this chapter tells the story of Thomas Peterffy, who was apparently the major innovator in the last 40 years in algorithmic trading. The guy is now a billionaire. It's a VERY interesting story.
2. A Brief History of Man and Algorithms - This spends a lot of time discussing mathematicians of the past, and how their innovations led to
3. The Bot Top 40 - Talks about how algorithms can be used to detect which songs are likely to be hits. Some great stories.
4. The Secret Highways of Bots - The main idea of this chapter is that the SPEED of algorithms is what makes them so valuable. The majority of the chapter is spent telling the story of how two guys spent $200 million building a new communications line between Chicago and NYC so that they could shave 4 milliseconds off the amount of time it took to communicate between the two cities, which gave a HUGE advantage in algorithmic trading. The plan worked and the guys made a ton of money off it.
5. Gaming the System - Algorithms in gaming (poker, etc.)
6. Paging Dr. Bot - Gives examples of companies that are using computers to replace a LOT of the work now done by doctors.
7. Categorizing Humankind - Tells the story of how NASA used algorithms to detect which astronauts would work well together during the 1960s/70s missions, and how this same idea is now being used to create algorithms that can detect your personality over the phone and connect you with a customer service representative whose method of communication matches yours. Very interesting.
8. Wall Street Versus Silicon Valley - Talks about how Silicon Valley and Wall St. compete for talent
9. Wall Street's Loss is a Gain for the Rest of Us
10. The Future Belongs to the Algorithms and Their Creators

How I found out about the book: I preordered the book after I read the author's August 2012 piece in the Wall Street Journal (which was just an excerpt from the book).

What I like about it:
- It is written very clearly, and you can finish the book quickly. The author used to write for Forbes, and it definitely felt like I was reading a magazine article while I was reading the book.
- The book isn't very expensive, and so it seems worth the price to have an extended glimpse into this topic. I don't subscribe to magazines and newspapers at the moment because too many of the articles aren't of interest to me, and it takes time to dig through all the stuff I'm not interested in and find stuff I AM interested in. A book like this solves that problem.

Other books to check out if you like this one:
- The Autobiography of Henry Ford - Ford spends most of the book talking about his method of innovation in manufacturing the Model T, which is exactly the same kind of innovation we're seeing now with the use of computers.
- The Singularity Is Near by Ray Kurzweil - talks about how computers are becoming smarter and smarter, to the point where we'll all be biologically immortal
- A Field Guide to Genetic Programming - this is a great intro to a type of computing that is producing better-than-human results by "evolving" programs instead of having people make them by hand.
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